In Gelsenkirchen, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, a 40-year-old stood before a judge at the District Court of Essen for “large-scale” bank fraud. According to the public prosecutor, he defrauded thousands of unsuspecting German citizens. The investigation, though, focused mainly on Bavarian victims as they lost their sensitive information the most frequently. This form of fraud, the prosecution alleged, came from the darknet.
And the darknet provided the 40-year-old Gelsenkirchener with the idea and method to carry out his scheme. The prosecution explained that the darknet has a “specially encrypted forum” that provides “business ideas for criminal entrepreneurs.” They clarified that the business ideas were for criminal business owners. It was on this forum that the defendant learned of “transfer fraud.”
The prosecution further alleged that the man had purchased information on thousands of unsuspecting victims throughout Germany. With Bitcoin, he purchased the names, addresses, and bank account numbers of these victims. The darknet, along with the activities use the darknet as a medium, “[are] not exactly legal,” the prosecution outlined. They explained that these activities were difficult to trace.
He then created bank accounts for himself in Poland with a fake identity. This account served as the recipient account for the money stolen from the account of a victim. He purchased a color laser printer and printed wire transfer templates. The templates he filled out by hand before submitting them to the bank, police in Bavaria determined. The money, if the fraudulent wire transfer passed through the bank’s system, went directly to accounts owned by the defendant.
In May, the FBI warned of a spike in wire-transfer fraud:
“Most victims report using wire transfers as a common method of transferring funds for business purposes; however, some victims report using checks as a common method of payment. The fraudsters will use the method most commonly associated with their victim’s normal business practices. The scam has evolved to include the compromising of legitimate business e-mail accounts and requesting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Wage and Tax Statement (W-2) forms for employees, and may not always be associated with a request for transfer of funds.”
Out of thousands of attempted scams, only 80 instances proved successful, the prosecution said. Some of the successful transfers proved lucrative, they explained. A total of $60,000 came from 34 accounts alone. Bavarian police eventually tracked down the make and model of the printer used to create the fake wire transfer forms. And they eventually tracked down the defendant. Judge Martin Hahnemann read an electronic store bill from 2015 that was for a color laser printer. A 10 percent discount. During the search of the suspect’s apartment, police also found several firearms.
He was convicted of fraud. No mention was made of the weapons or charges that would stem from them.